Did my child suffer a brain injury during labour?

The birth of a new baby is a very special time for the whole family and especially the parents of the baby.  Fortunately, the vast majority of pregnancies and births happen without any problems; however, sometime things can go wrong due to medical negligence which can cause serious birth injuries.

There are a number of different types of birth injuries and one sort is Cerebral Palsy which can be suffered when the brain is injured by a lack of oxygen to the baby during delivery.

Causes of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy may be caused by foetal stroke in the uterus before labour; foetal infection before birth; malformation of the brain originating at conception; genetic diseases; and complications of prematurity.

Sometimes, Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain damage from lack of oxygen due to an event during labour or delivery. When this happens in full term babies, the newborn will have evidence of severe pH abnormality in the cord blood and neurologic abnormalities soon after birth.  Frequently there will be signs of sudden oxygen deprivation seen on the foetal monitor, very low Apgar scores at birth and involvement of other organs such as the kidneys within a few days.

CTG Scans

CTG scans (Cardiotocography) can reveal a lot as to what is happening to the baby.  Below are some of the things to look out for:

  • Early decelerations – These relate to pressure on the foetal head, often as it tries to engage or passes down through the mother’s pelvis.  They are caused by raised intracranial pressure, slowing the heart by reflex.  The blood supply to the foetal brain is reduced during an early deceleration.
  • Late decelerations – These decelerations may be caused by the effect of hypoxia on chemical receptors in the brain or by a direct effect on the foetal heart muscle. These decelerations are in response to acute episodes of hypoxia and, although there is a recovery when the contraction has ceased and the circulation is restored, brain damage may result if they are allowed to continue for long.
  • Variable decelerations – Variable decelerations are so called because they vary from each other in shape and size and in their relationship to contractions.  They may be set off by foetal movements.  Variable foetal heart decelerations in labour can be classified as a suspicious pattern.

It is important to note that probably the most common mistake in CTG interpretation is to wrongly classify variable decelerations as early decelerations.

CTG traces can also illustrate foetal bradycardia, foetal tachycardia, placental abruption and cord occlusion, leading to variable decelerations without significant hypoxia.  It is important that medical staff explain what such terms mean during the pregnancy.

Head Injury UK: Cerebral Palsy Claim Experts

It is an unfortunate fact that clinical errors occur during labour and in the delivery of a child, and standards are sometime less than what they should be.  If your child suffered a brain injury during labour or was not properly cared for after birth, then our specialist cerebral palsy solicitors are here to support you and your family.  We have many years experience in helping those who have had children with cerebral palsy, so if you think you have had a child with cerebral palsy due to poor medical treatment contact Clare Langford or give us a call on 0800 073 0988 to see how we can help you.




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